The Empty Tomb

The Resurrection of Our Lord

Easter Sunday, 2016

Acts 10:34,37-43; Ps 118; Col. 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9

(New)Folsom Prison; Deacon Jim McFadden


I would like to begin the homily with a prayer: Lord and brother Jesus, we gather together to speak of you because you are Risen. We know and love you because through your Incarnation and Resurrection you have made that love and knowledge possible. So, Lord, we glory to speak of you. We praise and bless you, Jesus because you are Risen—you are ALIVE! Amen, Alleluia.

Today we are celebrating the apex of the liturgical calendar: The Resurrection of the Lord. We’re celebrating the resurrected Jesus who is forever for us. Our Faith comes down to this: if He’s risen, we have the promise of eternal life; if he isn’t, then, as St. Paul reminds us, we are the most foolish and pitiable of human beings. On Good Friday we kissed the Cross that God had assigned to himself so that we may embrace it as well. So, whenever we look at the crucified Christ, we see our fate, we see ourselves.   Yet, we know that in the life of the historical Jesus that this act of dying is either the end or the beginning. Either the leap of Faith that he took worked or it did not.   If the Cross is a period, if it is the end point, then it is the final act of man’s despair.   But, as we assemble here in this liturgy here at C (or A) Facility, we are proclaiming by our witness that the Cross is not the end, but a beginning: we are able to see in the final act of Jesus’ earthly existence a positive sign of hope. Why?   Because now we can draw the Crucifixion into the Resurrection.   Jesus’ final journey into death either tells mankind that love is victorious and the risk of living a life of love is worth taking or He has taken a sad and meaningless walk into despair and death that is not worth it.

What do we have to justify this hope? The Empty Tomb. Let’s look at the Gospel account. Peter and John come running up to the tomb after hearing that perhaps Jesus has risen. John, the Beloved Disciple, the human symbol of love, arrived their first.   Through the eyes of love, he is able to come to the awareness of the Resurrection earlier. Peter, the leader of the community and our first pope, who is perhaps older than John, gets their later. John waits, and out of deference to the rock of the Church, allows the latter to enter the tomb first. At first, all they are aware of is the presence of the empty tomb. That in itself is not proof of Resurrection.   The proof for them, as it will be for us, becomes the experience of the of the Risen Christ–the Jesus who lives.

That’s the only way we can know that Jesus is Risen, that He is Lord. We cannot physically see the Risen Christ. We can’t prove his Resurrection through cognitive, abstract reasoning. We can see the Risen Christ, however, through the eyes of Faith, which St. Bonaventure would call the Eye of the Soul. We can experience the Risen Christ sacramentally, especially through the Eucharist in which Jesus is Really Present. We can experience Him ecclessially—through the People of God, which is the Body of Christ. Since we are made in the image of God, we have the capability to turn towards God and to contemplate the deeper truths of the mystery of existence.

Brothers, when we “move, live, and have our being” in the Risen Christ, we begin to see reality as God sees it. When we open the Eye of the Soul, we can see things from the divine point of view because at the deepest level of our being we are in touch with this power–this world of Spirit that sustains everything in existence. From this vantage point, we can know that the most pivotal event in Salvation History–the Resurrection of Jesus–is true because we experience him indwelling within us and transforming other people around us.

The first step of the life of a Christian is to go within and unite with the Divine.   We leave the world where we are comfortable and in control and begin the slow arduous struggle of surrendering to God. When we begin to let go and begin to see reality from the perspective of the Risen Christ, our desires slowly begin to change. Let me ask you: what is it that you desire at a very deep level of soul? That’s a good question because what we desire will determine what we see.

If all we see is the accumulation of stuff, yard ‘cred.’ , and domination, then that’s what we’ll desire–we’ll compete for those God-substitutes that are scarce and exclusive. But, what would happen if we became people who saw reality through the experience of the Resurrection? We would start desiring that which is completely abundant; something everybody could have: Resurrected Life! What would happen to us if we desired something that was already there–that we didn’t have to wrestle it from someone else? As the Eye of the Soul begins to slowly open through prayer, meditation of Scripture, enthusiastic participation in the sacraments, and service to our neighbor, then we slowly become transformed. We begin to see what is truly Real and our desires begin to slowly change. Rather than try to save our lives, we strive to give ourselves away.   We’ll also begin to feel differently. As we abide in the Risen Jesus, we will experience “a joy that will never pass away”–you can’t say that about anything else.

So, as the People of God at Folsom Prison, we collectively strive to live like Jesus—we are a visible sign to the world that Christ has risen. As James reminds us in his Epistle, we must be more than hearers of the Good News of the Resurrection, but we must be doers. We are brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ, who is drawing all of humanity, all of Creation unto Himself. Let us act in every aspect of our lives that we know that Jesus Christ is Risen today!








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